Germans and Spaniards prefer an intense yellow-orange color in their yolk, yet the Swedish and Irish would rather a pale yellow. So, could it be the color of the yolk that makes a good egg? Or perhaps the palatability, egg weight, or shell quality? The answer lies in a combination of all these factors, thereby different nations have different preferences.
Make it golden
Have you ever wondered what causes different intensities of yolk color? The typical gold-orange coloring of yolks is due to the absorption of coloring agents in the feed, for instance naturally occurring carotenoids. While feed components such as maize and green meal mainly contain lutein and zeaxanthin as yellow coloring dyes, chilli (Capsicum annuum) is the only natural source of red pigments, known as canthaxanthin.
Still, not all carotenoids will make their way into the yolk
For example, the well-known beta-carotene, found in carrots, is completely converted into vitamin A when metabolized by chickens, and therefore has no influence on yolk color. However, only about 30 percent of canthaxanthin is converted to vitamin A, and the rest acts as a protective substance for the egg yolk. This provides the orange-golden color – in a natural way.
Chilli pepper is not the only phytogenic substance used in poultry production.
Other phytogenic additives such as extracts of thyme (Thymus vulgaris), quillaja bark (Quillaja saponaria) and star anise (Illicium verum) can be used in poultry production to increase the performance of broilers by stimulating their internal systems without the use of antibiotics. These natural feed additives also have the ability to improve egg shell quality, which helps to reduce monetary losses due to broken eggs while increasing hatch rate.
Eggceed your antioxidative capacity with plant-based solutions
The consumer is not the only one profiting from plant based natural feed additives. The chicken itself will also benefit. For example, the active substances in ginger, such as gingerol and shogaol, as well as components from chili peppers like capsaicin can act as antioxidants in the egg yolk. These components protect sensitive substances like vitamins from becoming rancid while shielding cells from oxidative stress. These antioxidants can reduce undesirable effects such as changes in color, taste, and odor caused by oxidation.
Chilli, fennel and caraway
When capsaicin, the spice found in chili pepper and black pepper (Piper nigrum), is consumed, its antioxidant properties have the ability to reduce lipid oxidation and thus the malondialdehyde (MDA) concentration in the egg yolk.
Additionally, active components in fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and black caraway (Nigella sativa) have antioxidant properties that can inhibit the production of free radicals by increasing the activity of antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase.
Especially in extreme weather conditions, these antioxidants can help to reduce the negative effects of heat stress on the animals and the quality parameters of the eggs. This not only improves animal welfare, but also benefits health-conscious consumers.
Phytogenic additives can do even more!
- When a hen’s digestion is in tune and the immune system is strong, the animal remains healthy and productive for a longer time.
- If the feed management suits the farmer better, less feed is required, and the nutrients can be better utilized by the chicken.
- The consumers profit from the high-quality protein source and can be sure that the hen was fed responsibly. Knowing that plant-based feed additives for chickens also reduce greenhouse gases makes our boiled egg at breakfast taste even better.
Problems with cholesterol?
Different phytogenic substances have demonstrated capabilities to decrease cholesterol and malondialdehyde (MDA) content. Laying hens fed with ginger root powder display reduced egg yolk cholesterol levels. MDA is used as a biochemical marker to indicate increased occurrence of free radicals in the body. It is a by-product of increased oxidation of fatty acids by free radicals. Positive effects of MDA concentration in serum and egg yolk are assumed to be attributed to the main active ingredients thymoquinone, carvacrol, anethole and 4-terpinol found in black cumin and capsaicin in red pepper.
Did you know?
We can distinguish different types of cholesterol:
- The one with the high density: High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) is often referred to as “the good” cholesterol. Lipoproteins are complex particles, composed of proteins which transport fat molecules (lipids) through the body within the blood. HDL-C has the ability to dissolve cholesterol deposits from the vascular walls and transports this cholesterol via the arteries back to the liver, where it is broken down. Thus, HDL-C protects against the harmful effects of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol on blood vessels and thus prevents cardiovascular disease
- The one with the low density: low density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL-C, is usually considered as “the bad one”. The majority (about 70%) of the total cholesterol in our body consists of LDL-C. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol in the blood from the liver to the body’s cells. If there is too much LDL in the body, the cholesterol is stored in the wall of the blood vessels and form plaques. These plaques can lead to atherosclerosis and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks or strokes.
But don’t worry…
…even if for a long time eggs were not recommended for consumption because of their high cholesterol content, science today is a bit further advanced: the cholesterol content in eggs has only a moderate influence on the cholesterol levels in the blood – saturated fatty acids, on the other hand, have a stronger influence. Lean meat and eggs, for example, contain a lot of cholesterol but few saturated fatty acids, so according to current recommendations they are largely safe.
It’s all about the protein
In addition to antioxidative capacity, protein quality can also be improved by phytogenic feed additives. This can be measured using Haugh units, which indicate the quality of the egg protein inside the shell, resulting from the relationship between the albumen height and the egg weight (albumen quality). Fennel seeds, black cumin and black pepper have the ability to increase the albumen quality and thereby the Haugh unit of eggs. In addition, the bioactive ingredients of these plants can protect the laying gut and uterus of laying hens by stimulating albumen secretion. Now that’s a double win for phytogenic additives! And we’re still not done.
Did you know?
- Egg size depends on the breed of the hen (white layer or brown layer) as well as hen age (the egg size increases with hen age).
- The egg form is called an ovoid, which is measured by the shape index (diameter equator/egg length x 100). The ideal shape index is 74 and deviations from this ideal value have detrimental effects on brood and shell stability.
- The shell surface should be smooth. Granular deposits found on the shell surface are indicators for disease.
- The Color of the shell is not related to the plumage color but is rather determined genetically. Hens producing white-skinned eggs cannot form brown pigments. The ear canal (the area around the ear entrance) can serve as a reference point. If this is white, the chicken also lays white eggs.
Improving and optimizing nutrient and feed conversion for poultry is the most effective strategy for increasing profitability in poultry production. For example, selected essential oils can stimulate the secretion of digestive juices. Nutrient digestibility can be increased with a synergy of bitter and pungent substances. In addition, essential oils have the ability to eliminate reactive oxygen species and increase the expression of endogenous antioxidative enzymes, to reduce oxidative stress for birds. Saponins, which are secondary plant compounds from the bark of the soapbark tree (Quillaja saponaria), help to reduce ammonia formation, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Feed conversion in poultry as well as the performance of broilers, laying hens, ducks or turkeys can be improved by exploiting synergetic effects of selected phytogenic components. As you can see, phytogenics have a lot to offer – Try them out and enjoy your breakfast egg.
References upon request
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